(Sacramento, CA)—When California adopted AB 32 in 2006, its landmark global warming legislation, it made a promise to the state’s low-income and minority communities—often located near the worst industrial polluters—that they wouldn’t be last in line for the benefits of cleaner neighborhoods and new jobs in the emerging clean tech economy. So far, it has failed.
As the state moves forward and sets new global standards for protecting the environment, fostering clean tech innovation, and combatting greenhouse gases, Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) has introduced Senate Bill 535, establishing the Community Benefits Fund to see this commitment through to fruition.
“Our children and the hard-working families of our state must have clean air and job opportunities in the new clean tech economy,” said De Leon. “As we move our state beyond the current fiscal crisis, we must make sure that everyone is empowered to participate and contribute.”
AB 32 mandated that revenues generated each year from the sale of market-based compliance mechanisms be directed towards air, water and other environmental quality projects in low-income neighborhoods—De León’s Community Benefits Fund will do just that.
“Many Californians are still unjustly burdened by harmful air quality and chronic respiratory illness simply because of their neighborhood,” stated De León. “Monies set aside in the Community Benefits Fund will give access to health and environmental clean-up funds to our state’s most economically disadvantaged and most often polluted communities.”
The majority of the 4.6 million Californians earning income below the federal poverty level live in neighborhoods facing burdens associated with the climate crisis, such as severe air pollution.
“According to the guidelines set forth in AB 32, these funds will also ensure these communities see the benefit of California’s investment in the clean technology economy,” added De León. “We’re looking at a win-win for these communities, cleaner neighborhoods and better jobs with skills that will be in demand in the new economy.”
De Leon’s bill has already received notable support from environmental and civil rights advocates. The Coalition for Clean Air, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Greenlining Institute are co-sponsors of SB 535.
"The truth is climate change impacts people of color and low-income communities first and worst. From epidemics of asthma to water shortages, our most vulnerable cities, like Oakland and Wilmington, are disproportionately impacted. This Community Benefits Fund is an important solution to building an equitable green economy that improves the health and wealth of our working families," said Jakada Imani, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.